FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Measures of a Small Mind

How often a leader speaks of an idea or value signals its importance to him or her—or, at least, how important they think it might be to their listeners. It also suggests the range of their ideas. By these measures, the table shows that President Donald Trump has the smallest mind and most narrow vision of any recent US president, whether Republican or Democrat. The table discriminates against Trump in that he has served less than three years so far while the other presidents mentioned served eight years or (George H. W. Bush) just four. Still, it is clear that Trump’s references to positive values have been rare compared to his predecessors’.

Frequency of Key Words in Presidential Statements

The archive of presidential documents compiled at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shows that Trump has used the word “peace” just one-tenth as often as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; “environment,” one-tenth so often as G. W. Bush and Obama; “equality,” one-tenth so often as Clinton and one-twentieth the rate of Obama; “education,” nearly one-tenth as often as “W” but less than one-tenth the frequency of Clinton and Obama; “science,” one-seventh the rate of “W” and not one-sixteenth the rate of Obama.

You might expect the man who talks big to speak often about “power,” but Trump has used this word at one-seventh the rate of Clinton, G. W. Bush, and Obama. True to his notoriety as a skeptic about treaties, Trump has spoken of “arms control” just three times compared to Reagan’s tally at 468. As for “negotiation,” Trump used the word about one-fifth so often as Reagan, while Trump spoke of “cooperation “ at one-third the rate of Reagan and one-eighth that of Obama. Scorning the “United Nations,” Trump referred to that organization at one-tenth the rate of Clinton and even of “W.”

Though known for his interest in women, Trump has spoken of “gender” (as in gender equality) just 14 times—less than one-twentieth the rates of Clinton and Obama. The Georgetown-Oxford-Yale educated Clinton spoke of “complexity” 117 times; Obama (Columbia and Harvard), 92 times; Trump (Fordham and Wharton School undergrad), 17 times. While Clinton paid homage to “interdependence” some 110 times, and most other presidents going back to Teddy Roosevelt, at least three times, the word did not ever cross Trump’s official tongue. (FDR spoke of “interdependence” 26 times; Truman, 5 times; Ike, 42 times.) Trump fell short even on “independence,” using the term not one-fourth so often as Reagan or G. W. Bush.

The official Trump spoke of “losers” only a few times, but did so often in uncounted off-the-cuff attacks on his opponents. By contrast, all his predecessors used the term only to warn that the nation or society or some individual might lose if policies failed.

Where Trump leads the pack is on ugly negatives: “crooked,” 25 times; “mess,” 26 times; “horror show,” 13 times; “currency manipulation,” 25 times; “hacking,” 16 times; “fake news,” 88 times.” But he also established a reputation for hyperbole: “genius” (usually his own), 29 times; “unbelievable” (his accomplishments), 92 times; “totally rigged” (against him), 63 times; “tremendous” (whatever he has done), 475 times!

The president who seems destined to make the United States less great has a mind and morality geared to expedite this decline.

More articles by:

Walter Clemens is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Boston University and Associate, Harvard University Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He wrote Complexity Science and World Affairs (SUNY Press, 2013).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
Nyla Ali Khan
Spectacles of the Demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the Revocation of the Autonomous Status of Kashmir
Stansfield Smith
Celebrating 50 Years of Venceremos Brigade solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Tim Butterworth
Socialism Made America Great
Nick Licata
Profiles in Courage: the Tories Have It, the Republicans Don’t
Abel Prieto
Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz
Robert Koehler
Altruists of the World Unite!
Mel Gurtov
Farewell, John Bolton
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail